Last weekend I suffered through a DVD viewing of PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 3 and realized how badly I was a craving a good old fashioned tale of the supernatural. Little did I know that a new ghost story was looming just around the corner and to be released this weekend ala’ THE WOMAN IN BLACK. NOTE: As pointed out to me on Facebook by Ryan Clark, this is a Hammer remake and not “new” as in fresh idea. Thanks Ryan). So yesterday I eagerly headed over to the local theater for a mid-day matinee – entering an auditorium with only about seven other patrons. This wasn’t too surprising as most of the world was, no doubt, busy picking up last minute snacks and beer for the big Superbowl game today.
The main draw of this film was the presence of its star player – Daniel Radcliffe a.k.a. Harry Potter. Radcliffe is determined to shed his “boy wizard” image and, if appearing nude on stage last year with a horse during the 2011 production of “Equus” wasn’t enough to do that, than perhaps a more sinister romp with the supernatural would. In this endeavor, he and I are totally in simpatico. With all do respect to my co-blogger, five kids, and the millions of other Potter fans out there, I hated those movies. I made it through the first one okay but upon watching the second entry, and seeing that “Dobby” character, I was immediately struck with “Jar Jar Binks post traumatic stress” and ran for the hills. But I digress…
The film takes place in England back in the 1800’s (perfect setting for a ghost flick by the way) with young lawyer & distraught widower, Arthur Kipps (Radcliffe), sent to handle an abandoned estate called “Eel Marsh.” Life has been tough on Kipp since he lost his wife during childbirth and his employers make it pretty clear that they’ve run out of sympathy for him and this assignment is basically “sink or swim.” Making things even more complicated, the estate also happens to be cursed and the locals welcome the presence of Mr. Kipps like the proverbial turd in their football party punchbowl.
It turns out that this is with good reason. The estate is haunted by a (you guessed it) woman in black and every time someone sees her, one of the townspeople’s children die. In fact, the town has lost so many kids that “NOOOOOO! Not my Baby!!!” is pretty much the official village cheer. Despite these warnings, Kipps proceeds with his task at hand and with disastrous results.
I have to say this movie is very well made and virtually every scene is creepy. This is especially true for those in the old estate – a place that would give anyone the chills no matter what time of day it was (even the toy room made me shudder). While the movie can be slow at times and isn’t the most frightening film ever made, it definitely will give you a few “jumps” along with some truly terrifying imagery. As for the question of whether Radcliffe is capable of moving past Harry Potter, I’d say the answer is a resounding YES. Both he and his fellow actors gave superb performances and their skills helped make the unbelievable seem much more plausible.
My only real complaint was with the film’s ending. I felt as a viewer it was unfair to endure a dismal 95 minutes of storytelling without being given a more gratifying denouement. I understand that horror films aren’t designed to be “feel good movies” but I didn’t particularly like leaving the theater with the sensation of a rock in my stomach. Needless to say, I had an overwhelming desire to zoom home and hug my eight year old.
If you decide to see this in the theaters there are worse ways to pass the time but I believe that it will be even more effective on home video, wrapped up alone in a blanket while watching in your own dark abode. Its definitely the kind of paranormal activity I’d prefer to see!